The Cincinnati Bengals’ 30-12 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs stirred up quite a bit of frustration from fans bemoaning a team performance that didn’t seem to match the impressive one seen in the first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, one player who has looked great in both preseason games so far has been receiver and kick returner Alex Erickson. That said, he was disappointed in the overall results and is only focused on the team, as a whole, improving going forward.
“At the end of the day, it’s about making the most of your opportunity, and if you let that stuff sink in, it’s going to affect your play and it’s all going to snowball from there,” Erickson said Saturday after the game. “You can’t control any of that stuff. You can’t control the numbers. All you can control is how you come to work every day, how you prepare and how you go out and execute. Just keep the focus on that.”
Sometimes, a great performance not only requires the ability to execute, but also the courage to recognize and take advantage of risky but potentially fruitful endeavors. For example, Erickson only returned one kick during the game. At that, it was a long kick he caught it eight yards deep in the endzone and never took his eyes off the prize as he found an opportunity to convert the play into a great 39-yard return.
“Sometimes it’s a feel thing. Some days, you would sit that down (and take a knee); some days you bring it out,” Erickson explained. “It just felt like it was an opportunity for us as a kickoff return unit to get a return, because we didn’t have any chances last game and that was the only chance tonight. Those plays are — the way the kickers can kick the ball — few and far between now, so you’ve got to take advantage of it. The 10 guys up front gave me a seam, and I tried to take advantage of it.”
However, it was Erickson’s big catch near the end of the first half that really stuck out. A 31-yard catch with 26 seconds left in the second quarter allowed the Bengals to set up for a 26-yard field goal from Randy Bullock, bringing the Bengals within a touchdown as the half expired.
“They were just in man-to-man coverage, and you’ve just got to be able to separate sometimes,” Erickson said. “The line protected, AJ (McCarron) threw a good ball, and we were able to get down the field and get some points before the half.”
Unfortunately, the second half was ugly. Perhaps not-so coincidentally, Erickson only caught a single pass in the second half and did not contribute as a returner.
Erickson certainly does not deserve to share in the blame for the Bengals’ loss. His three catches for 43 yards and 39-yard kick return gave the Bengals as many opportunities as he could to put them in a favorable position. In fact, Pro Football Focus graded Erickson as one of the team’s best players in the game.
WR Alex Erickson, 78.6 overall grade
Erickson played just 11 snaps, but he caught all three targets thrown his way. Those combined for 43 yards, including back-to-back first downs at the end of the second half to set up a Cincinnati field goal. Erickson saw a 118.8 passer rating when targeted in the game.
Unfortunately, Erickson’s performance was not enough to pick up the slack from the rest of the team.
“We have to come back to work, we’ve got to fix it and we’ve got to do better — it wasn’t good enough.”